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Polk County Health Department calls large conference in Des Moines 'alarming' after video shows no social distancing or mask-wearing

Informed Choice Iowa, a group that does not support the mandate of vaccines, put on the event.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Just a few days after Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a limited mask mandate for indoor and outdoor gatherings, a group that does not support vaccine mandates held a conference at a Des Moines hotel with little mask-wearing or social distancing.

The group, Informed Choice Iowa, posted a video after Saturday's all-day conference, showing members standing in a group together, shouting "Freedom." 

No one in the video was wearing a mask. The event was held at the Holiday Inn Des Moines-Airport Conference Center. 

Rep. Jeff Shipley, a Republican, was in attendance.

Nola Aigner Davis of the Polk County Health Department called the event "alarming."

"Last week the governor stated that she did not want people to gather publicly, that obviously violated the number," said Aigner Davis. "That is incredibly alarming to us because of the community spread we are seeing in Polk County. They are putting everyone at risk. They are putting the people in the hotel, they are putting the hotel workers at risk. Anyone who was involved in the conference, at risk. Think about someone who was passing by staying at the Holiday Inn for a flight. 

"They are putting those individuals at risk. We cannot have this right now in the community."

The Tuesday before the annual conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a targeted mask mandate as coronavirus hospitalizations and cases continued to hit daily records. 

The proclamation prohibits indoor gatherings of 25 or more people, unless if everyone older than two years is wearing a face covering.

"I continue to strongly encourage all Iowans two or older to wear a mask or other face-covering when in public settings, especially in circumstances when it is not possible to remain six feet away from others outside their household, unless it is unsafe to do so because of health or disability,” the proclamations says.

A day after the new proclamation was signed, Informed Choice Iowa posted on its Facebook page, saying, "As we are not medical professionals, we do not feel it’s appropriate for us to ask what your medical condition or disability is. Therefore, if we see you without a mask, we will assume you have a medical condition or disability and will welcome you into our event. We understand that Iowans are responsible for their own health decisions."

Aigner Davis said there will be cases coming from the conference because of the lack of adherence to the public health measures.

"The decisions that you make impact everyone you spend time with. Think about the people you live with, everyone you impact," said Aigner Davis. "For us to say that you can hold this large of an event without the possibility of people having COVID-19 there, that's just crazy. There is someone at that event who had COVID-19 and is spreading it."

RELATED: Reynolds orders restaurants to close at 10 p.m., prohibits gatherings of 15+ and issues statewide mask mandate

Katie Struckman attended the event. She said she didn't wear a mask because wearing one all day gives her headaches. 

"We all were expected to be responsible, and that's what I felt like everybody did," said Struckman. "They were responsible and I never once worried about something like that, I guess."

Informed Choice Iowa declined an on-camera interview, but sent this statement: "As an organization we respect every individual’s constitutionally protected right to determine their own medical interventions appropriate for individual circumstances, especially considering we do not have any data on the long term ramifications of masking an entire society. The purpose of this year's event was the same as last year and will be the same as next year; to equip parents, grandparents, and Iowans with science and data to make truly informed medical decisions."

Local 5 reached out to the Iowa Department of Public Health for a comment on the event.

"Everyone needs to follow public health guidelines and mitigation strategies to address the significant community spread of COVID-19. We must all do our part to protect our fellow Iowans," said Matt Highland, a spokesman for the department.

Local 5 also called the Holiday Inn. They have not returned our calls.

WATCH: Gov. Kim Reynolds' full Nov. 16, 2020 address

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